Under the Silv'ry Moon
Newly-widowed Trixie Collier Blake has planted her feet in her hometown of Dreamland, Arkansas. Never mind that the shadowy development corporation targeted her almost to death because she wouldn’t sell the building left to her by a grandfather she barely remembered. Never mind the second floor was once the Castle Casino frequented by none other than Al Capone. Never mind that he used the network of tunnels running under the building and around town to make bootleg liquor during Prohibition. And never mind that he’s still hanging around as evidenced by the frequent smell of cigar smoke.
With the first floor occupied by senior citizen sisters, Letha and Stella Drummond and their successful Sunshine Style Shoppe, plans for a gift shop and tea room on the second floor are almost complete. But with the grand opening of Trixie’s Treasures just around the corner, a resurgence of interest in the tunnels has Trixie spooked—and it looks like she’s being targeted again, but this time she doesn’t know why.
Meanwhile, Danny Jefferson has developed a passionate interest in and a true talent for photography. Then he and newcomer Stephanie Wallace, who plans to open a dance studio on the square, stumble on a decades-old cold case. By the time Sean Mercer, a forensic anthropologist, gets involved, Trixie is convinced once again that she’s made the wrong decision to stay in Dreamland.
But there’s Mitch Langley—a friend she can count on because he knows exactly where she is in her grief journey—and Rudy and Dee James, high school classmates who believe in the future of Dreamland. After the turbulent events surrounding the attempted take-over of the downtown for criminal purposes, Trixie has established an uneasy truce with Police Chief Doug Everton whose knowledge of her origins is as displeasing to him as it is to her.
She barely has her fledgling business off the ground when events come to an explosive climax deep in the hidden tunnels. A search for the treasure Al Capone is rumored to have left behind brings the interested parties together—and threatens Trixie’s life one more time.
Trixie felt sure Rudy’s feet didn’t touch the pavement as he crossed the street. She followed close on his heels. “Danny! What the…”
Doug Everton held up his hand. “I’ll ask the questions.”
“You sound like a bad western movie,” Rudy said, his voice rising. “Danny, I brought you back here to pick up your bike, and you said you were going straight home.”
“I’ll take the blame,” Stephanie said.
“You’ll do more than that,” Rudy began, but Doug clamped a hand on his shoulder.
“Shut up, Rudy.”
“Don’t tell me to…” Rudy closed his mouth and stepped back, almost knocking Trixie over.
“The first thing I want to know is how the two of you got into the Quimby Building. Obviously, you set off the alarm.”
“We were trying to leave when the alarm went off,” Stephanie said. Trixie thought she actually batted her eyes at the police chief.
“It didn’t go off when you went in?”
“We came through the tunnel, Chief Doug,” Danny spoke up. “From the hotel.”
“And of course, you knew how to unlock the door,” Trixie said under her breath.
Danny looked puzzled. “Sure, I knew, Trixie. I did it before, remember? When I got us out of the tunnel after Andy…”
“Right, Danny,” she murmured. “Never mind.”
“It’s all very simple,” Stephanie interrupted. “I saw Dan on his bike as I was going into the hotel, so I introduced myself and said I’d like to see the tunnels sometime.”
“I’ll bet he didn’t volunteer,” Rudy muttered.
“No.” She turned innocent eyes on Rudy. “I asked him to take me.”
“So he did,” Doug filled in. “And that’s how you set off the alarm trying to come out of the shop.”
“I knew the door locked from the inside,” Stephanie said. “I saw it this afternoon at the opening, so I was sure we could get out, and no one would even know we’d been there.” She smiled—again, Trixie thought, like a milk-sated cat. “I just didn’t know about the alarm.”
Doug looked at Rudy. “Danny’s yours,” he said.
“I thought it would be okay,” Danny said, looking from Trixie to Rudy to Doug and back to Trixie. “I told her to stay straight, just like I told you, Trixie, but she didn’t.”
“We don’t need to talk about that, Dan,” Stephanie said. For the first time she appeared nervous.
Danny nodded. “I told you we’d have to tell.”
Trixie held her breath. Doug Everton leaned closer to Danny. “Tell what, Danny?”
“What we found in the other tunnel.”
Stephanie’s expression turned from worried to angry, but she didn’t say anything.
“And just what did you find?”
Danny hesitated and then took a deep breath. “A skeleton, Chief Doug. A real one. And I saw a badge right there by it. A badge like yours.”
The chief lifted his eyes in supplication. “Oh, good lord.”
“I’m not sure it was real,” Stephanie said then.
“Of course it’s real,” Doug said. “Danny knows what he saw, and unfortunately, so do I.” He turned to Trixie. “I’m guessing you don’t want to press charges for breaking and entering.”
She shook her head. “But don’t do it again.”
Stephanie glared. “I wouldn’t think of it.”
“So you go home,” Doug said to Danny, “and you go back to the hotel, Miss Wallace, and I don’t want to hear that either one of you said boo to anybody about this.”
“I won’t tell, Chief Doug,” Danny said.
“I’ll take you to the hotel so you can get your bike,” Rudy said to Danny. “Then please go straight home.”
Stephanie tossed her black mane and sailed off into the night.
“The same goes for the two of you,” Doug said to Rudy and Trixie. “You didn’t hear anything tonight.”
“You said you know what Danny saw,” Trixie said. “I’d like to know, too.”
Chief Everton took a deep breath. “In 1940, the then police chief of Dreamland disappeared. Gene Miles had a wife and two kids and a spotless record, so everybody knew he hadn’t left by choice. Now I guess we know where he’s been all this time.”
Trixie felt her knees grow weak. “In the tunnels?” she whispered. “All these years?”
Doug nodded. “The FBI investigated, so it’s their cold case, and I’ll have to report it. They’ll come in and open things up again. It won’t be nice.”
Trixie scooted back to her vehicle while she could still depend on her legs to carry her.
Doug Everton was right—it wasn’t pleasant. The two agents who arrived in Dreamland almost immediately were about the same age, thirtyish, but polar opposites: Ty Oliver kept a low profile, and Sid Crane managed to alienate half the population in Dreamland in less than a day. Trixie heard about the disastrous first encounter from Miss Hetty Green who happened to be shopping at Martin’s Market when Doug Everton showed up with the two agents to enlist Danny’s help. When Agent Sid Crane objected to the retard, Doug said, “I’m not going without him, and if you want to end up lost down there permanently, it’s your call.” According to Miss Hetty, Danny walked out with the three men.
The rest she heard from a livid Rudy at the Twilight that night. “Danny took them right to the remains, but when he decided to get some pictures with his camera, one of the agents grabbed it away from him and wouldn’t give it back. Doug tried to reason with him, but he said Danny was interfering with an official investigation.”
“That was downright mean,” Trixie said. “But we’re not really supposed to be talking about this, you know.”
Rudy laughed. “Everybody in town knows about the skeleton. And you should know by now you can’t keep a secret in Dreamland.”
Trixie wondered if the whole town knew she was their police chief’s biological daughter. Somehow she thought maybe that was one secret which hadn’t leaked.
When Mitch joined them a few minutes later, Rudy repeated the story. “Danny’s heartbroken over losing his camera.”
“That’s the Feds for you—possessive.”
“Did he leave the film from the opening at Beamer’s?” Trixie asked. “He was the only one taking pictures besides the couple the newspaper reporter took outside.
“Those are safe anyway. He’ll get them tomorrow. I’ve seen some of the first pictures he took. He seems to have a knack for photography. He sees things…knows when to snap the picture.”
“Anything new on the roving renter?”
“Ross Carrow, you mean.
“Still gone. I doubt he’ll be back.”
“I’ve heard that name before,” Mitch said.
Rudy shrugged. “You’ve heard of the Carrows in the northeastern part of the state. Lots of money and social influence.”
“Is he one of those Carrows?”
“In name only. They gave him the boot.”
“No wonder,” Trixie said. “Dee said he was into booze, drugs, and women.”
Rudy shrugged again. “I just tried to give him a hand. He’s not a bad sort…or maybe he is, I don’t know. But he’s a vet like me.”
Lindsey King and Pete Aiken drifted in. “I heard what happened last night,” Lindsey said. “But that’s Stephanie. She marches to the beat of her own drum.”
“I meant what I told her about not having people parade through my shop on those ghost tours—assuming she gets them organized.”
“Oh, she’ll get them going, believe me. What she sets out to do, she gets done. She’ll have people standing in line for tickets.”
“They won’t see anything down there,” Trixie said.
Lindsey grinned. “She could arrange for them to see something.”
Mitch nodded toward the door. “Speak of the devil.” As Stephanie Wallace strode toward their table, no one doubted she had something on her mind.
“I signed up three students for the dance studio this morning,” she announced without pausing for pleasantries. And Barry Todd gave me permission to use the hotel entrance to the tunnels for ghost tours as long as I use the basement door and don’t bring anyone through the lobby.”
“And you can’t go through my place of business,” Trixie said more sharply than she intended. She thought the look Stephanie bestowed on her was totally condescending.
“I didn’t know about the security alarm.”
Trixie sighed. That’s probably as close to an apology as I’m going to get.
“I heard about Danny’s camera. I hope they’ll give it back to him,” Pete said.
“Don’t count on it,” Rudy said. “The agent who took it is the same one who called him a retard.”
Lindsey sucked in her breath. “Nasty.”
Trixie didn’t think Stephanie looked particularly sorry about anything. Then she realized the newcomer had discovered Mitch. “I don’t think we’ve met,” she said, holding out a hand with long nails matching her lime green skirt.
“Mitch Langley,” Lindsey said.
“Oh, the ex-stepbrother.” Stephanie looked around for a chair. Pete pulled one from the nearest table, and Stephanie settled into it like fog on a riverbank. “Hello.”
“Hi,” Mitch said.
The evening went downhill from there.
Later, Mitch walked Trixie to her car. “Was anything disturbed in the shop from the late-night hijinks?”
“Nothing. And by the way, I netted over half the take yesterday. Not too shabby for a grand opening. The woman who looked at the jewelry came back and bought four pieces.”
“I’m due a windfall, I guess.”
His voice was light, but Trixie didn’t miss the fleeting sadness in his eyes. Four pieces of Macy gone.
“They sold for one hundred thirty dollars, so seventy per cent of that.”
“I can buy my own plate of nachos and not have to fight you off the cheese.” His eyes had a far-away look. Trixie knew he was seeing Macy wear the jewelry which, like her, was now gone forever
Without thinking, she put her hand on his arm. “I’ve still got that experience ahead,” she said almost in a whisper. “When I get there, you can remind me I’ll survive.”
He nodded. “Sure.” He glanced around. “What do you make of Stephanie Wallace?”
“Like Lindsey said, she marches to the beat of her own drum.”
“Was it my imagination or did she..” His voice trailed off.
“Did she hit on you? She sure did.”
He grimaced. “That’s all I need. Are you sure?”
“Sorry. Women know these things.”
“I don’t suppose you could tell her we’re having a mad passionate affair, so she should keep her hands off?”
“Not a chance.”
“You handled yourself well.”
“That’s just it—I don’t want to have to handle myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve played boy-girl games.”
“Then don’t. She’ll catch on sooner or later.”
“It’s the later I’m worried about.” He opened the door of the vehicle as soon as Trixie unlocked it. “I wish you didn’t have to make a run from the carport to the cottage.”
“Isn’t all that behind us now?”
He laughed. “Who knows? Have you smelled any cigar smoke on the lawn?”
Trixie slid behind the wheel. “Bite your tongue. Goodnight. I’ll see you when I see you.”
He closed the door and motioned for her to lock it. She noticed he waited until she’d backed out before he went to his own car.